The months of July through until September marks kite flying season on the island of Bali and the skies are filled with all sorts of wonderful handmade creations. Children learn to make their own kites from a very young age and limited resources such as a few strips of shaved bamboo, a plastic bag and length of string can be turned into a prized flyer.
There two common types of kites that the Balinese prefer to make and fly. There is a small lightweight fighting kite called rerean as well as a slightly larger traditional styled model that is referred to as bebean.
The rerean is a simple construction made from plastic or very thin paper. Owners go to great lengths to prepare the strings of these fighting kites by applying a sticky concoction of crushed glass and glue to make the line razor sharp. Once in the sky an opponent is found and the pair of kites duel by dodging and teasing each other until with one swift manoeuvre a line is cut. The losing kite disappears into the breeze and is trailed on the ground by a group of barefoot children hoping to claim it as their own.
The larger bebean can literally stay up in the air for days providing there are favourable wind conditions. These attractive looking kites are constructed from coloured plastic or parachute fabric. Whilst up in the air these kites make an unusual twanging sound created by a length of palm leaf attached to the frame that vibrates in the wind.
Every year Bali hosts an annual kite festival and competition on the black sand beach of Padang Galak, just north of Sanur. Although this festival initially started out as a local event, in recent years it has attracted international interest with enthusiastic entrants from America, Australia and Japan.
The Balinese prepare for the festival by collaborating with members of their immediate community to create large-scale communal kites out of flexible rods of bamboo and parachute fabrics. All construction costs are covered by generous donations from within the local neigbourhood.
These monster sized kites have to be transported to the festival site on the back of a truck in a colourful procession. Boys dress in traditional attire and the entire ensemble is accompanied by Balinese music of brass gong instruments and clashing cymbals.
It often takes several strong boys to actually get these kites into the air so evaluation can commence. Judges score on appearance, colour combination, balance and the overall dynamics of each kite. A winning entrant has to be visually appealing, but also harmonize with the wind. The most wonderful thing about kite flying is that it defies social barriers. Everyone can participate and enjoy this activity – whether they are young, old, rich or poor.